Bioweathering of nontronite colloids in hybrid silica gel: implications for iron mobilization




This study aimed to study biotic iron dissolution using a new hybrid material constituted of well-dispersed mineral colloids in a silica gel matrix. This permitted to prevent adsorption of colloidal mineral particles on bacteria. Hybrid silica gel (HSG) permitted to study bioweathering mechanisms by diffusing molecules.

Methods and Results

Hybrid silica gel was synthesized through a classical sol–gel procedure in which mineral colloidal particles (NAu-2) were embedded in a porous silica matrix. Rahnella aquatilis RA1, isolated from a wheat rhizosphere was chosen for its ability to dissolve minerals by producing various organic acids and siderophores. Pyruvic, acetic and lactic acids were the major organic acids produced by R. aquatilis RA1 followed by oxalic and citric acids at the end of incubation. Comparison of abiotic and biotic experiments revealed a high efficiency of R. aquatilis RA1 for iron dissolution suggesting an optimized action of different ligands that solubilized or mobilized iron.


Hybrid silica gel allowed focusing on the colloidal mineral weathering by metabolites diffusion without mineral adsorption on bacteria.

Significance and Impact of the Study

Hybrid silica gels are new and efficient tools to study colloidal mineral bioweathering. Adjusting HSG porosity and hydrophobicity should permit to precise the influence of limiting diffusion of siderophores or aliphatic organic acids on mineral weathering.